NHTSA proposes new rules to accelerate deployment of autonomous cars, requests data sharing from automakers in return

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is preparing to introduce new rules that could accelerate the deployment of driverless cars. The agency is expected to publish a notice of proposed rule-making on automated driving systems this fall, signaling a potential increase in the number of autonomous vehicles allowed to operate in the United States.

The proposed rules fall under the banner of the ADS-Equipped Vehicle Safety, Transparency, and Evaluation Program, also known as AV STEP. This program aims to remove restrictions on the maximum number of vehicles utilizing advanced driving systems, including fully self-driving cars that have no steering wheels or pedals and do not require human intervention.

However, NHTSA is requesting automakers to share operational data in return. The agency believes that access to this data will enhance its own understanding of road safety and improve its research into automated vehicle performance.

“We believe AV STEP is a way to open up a wealth of data and allow for deployment of noncompliant vehicles. This is a new and exciting opportunity for all of us. We believe AV STEP is a way to open up a wealth of data and allow for deployment of noncompliant vehicles where we can benefit from, learn from and enhance our research into automated-vehicle safety and performance,” said Acting administrator of NHTSA, Ann Carlson. (via Automotive News)

The current limit for autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads is set at 2,500. However, with the implementation of AV STEP, this number is expected to increase significantly.

The announcement has been met with positivity from those in the industry. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a major lobbying arm for auto manufacturers, said it was an “important innovation policy.” The move could also benefit General Motors (GM) in its pursuit of an exemption for its Cruise Origin robotaxi. GM submitted the request to NHTSA in February of the previous year and is awaiting a response.

Ford on the other hand recently withdrew its petition for autonomous vehicle deployment, citing current unprofitability as the reason. However, two exemption requests are still pending with NHTSA.

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